[Vision2020] Tax Protests Taxing for All of Us

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Sat Feb 18 09:45:17 PST 2012

Courtesy of today's (February 18, 2012) Coeur d'Alene Press with appreciation to Mike Ruskovich.

Tax protests taxing for all of us
By MIKE RUSKOVICH/Special to The Press

Another Idaho tax protester has made the news for not paying his taxes - and this time it isn't an elected official. Shouldn't it make us proud that our citizens are following the examples of our leaders? After all, if it is an admirable thing to stand up for your convictions, shouldn't the refusal of Hayden resident Scott Grunsted to file his state income tax returns because he disagrees philosophically with his tax obligations be worthy of praise? So why does his valiant deed feel far more villainous than heroic?

Perhaps the fact that Grunsted made about twice as much money as the average Idahoan during the years in question dulls the shine of his armor. Or perhaps it is the fact that he has enjoyed all the protections and privileges of our fair state without paying for them like the rest of us. Whatever the reasons, the gallantry of this man standing up for his convictions is sullied by the fact he's sitting down on his job as a citizen.

Instead of taxpayers' money being tied up in court proceedings against Grunsted, why doesn't Idaho just show him clearly that the things he enjoys come at a cost? When snow needs to be moved, pile it in his driveway. When he needs help from a policeman or fireman, charge him by the hour for both equipment and manpower and inform his insurance company that his property is low priority; his insurance premiums might then cause him further "philosophical" disagreement. If he has any offspring in public schools, send them home (but not on a school bus paid for by tax dollars). Take away his driver's license because he needs to realize that roads and highways are paid for with taxes - even if it isn't his money. As a resident of Hayden his water is regularly tested for safety; perhaps it shouldn't be. Perhaps his household waste should be stopped from going down the drain or into the garbage bin, and perhaps his right to vote for those who play a part in the state's taxation laws should be denied. Of course, being denied his right to vote because of his tax dodging might just make Grunsted an attractive political candidate to many Idaho voters.

That oddity aside, Grunsted should not be allowed to enter state parks even if he pays the entry fees, for those fees don't come close to covering the costs of the parks. Fishing and hunting licenses for him ought to cost as much as any out-of-state resident pays, and any state health, human, or other services ought to be denied. Perhaps then he might not need to be taken to court to get him to pay his taxes, since he might happily oblige by jumping at the bargain he once found so philosophically disagreeable.

Is philosophy really the point? Yes, it is true there is a difference between most other taxes and income taxes, but nonetheless income taxes play a big role in public funding, and as long as they are considered legal, members of the public should pay them. Grunsted is just one citizen, of course, but he is a reminder that over the years those who have paid their taxes may also have groused about how much of their gross income is spent on government, but they still paid their share. In doing so they have purchased one other privilege: the right to complain. But those who do not pay and who would like us to believe they are not dodging their duties but rather making a philosophical point have forfeited their right to complain, even though they may simply be following the lead of those leaders who practice such tactics. Elected officials like tax withholder Phil Hart have helped citizens like Grunsted forget that civilization doesn't just sprout from the soil like wild grass to be grazed upon freely by them. In Hart's case, of course, trees would make a better metaphor than grass, but the point is still valid.

At any rate, the next time you visit a state park and find the restroom closed due to lack of revenue, remember leaders like Phil Hart and followers like Scott Grunsted as you scramble to find relief from your current emergency. Then see how much it matters to you that they were philosophically opposed to paying their taxes.

Seeya later, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Post Falls, Idaho

"If not us, who?
If not now, when?"

- Unknown

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